We see job openings for SEO managers, analysts, writers, coordinators, and more and often wonder what the differences are between each role. As SEO continues to grow and evolve, the duties for SEO experts continue to become more specific and niche for each area.
We asked a panel of experts for their take on the differences between top SEO roles and what they look for when hiring SEO experts. Lastly, we asked them for their recommendations for SEO newbies who want to get into our industry.
These are the questions we asked each panelist:
- There many different roles in SEO now– analyst, manager, writer, coordinator, etc. How does SEO break down into separate roles or projects?
- In your opinion, what is the difference between an SEO analyst and an SEO manager?
- When you’re hiring an SEO analyst, what qualifications do you look for (both in experience and personality, e.g. detail-oriented)?
- When you’re hiring an SEO manager, what qualifications do you look for (both in experience and personality, e.g. detail-oriented)?
- What should your priorities be as an SEO analyst?
- What should your priorities be as an SEO manager?
- If someone wanted to get into SEO, what resources would you point him or her to?
How does SEO break down into separate roles or projects?
All our experts said that analysts are more technical, whereas managers are more client-facing and focus on reporting results and creating big picture strategies.
An effective SEO will break the workload down into three major parts:
- Technical SEO, where you would focus on crawler communication and effectiveness of site architecture and performance.
- On-Page SEO, where you will concern yourself with content (i.e. images and copy), page structure and layout, and keyword strategies.
- Off-Page SEO, where you will invest time and energy in promoting your site and its content through acquiring strong backlinks such as Niche Edits, press releases, guest posts, connections, and online relationships.
The most significant issue an SEO faces is prioritization and time management. All three of these areas are extremely important in obtaining success organically. Sometimes specializing in one of these areas will make you stand out more when seeking a job opportunity as an SEO.
Since search engine optimization happens both onsite and offsite, it makes sense to have one onsite technical SEO and another SEO for content. Typically the onsite SEO knows all about content and has more experience, and therefore can act with seniority to take on some project management and coordination.
The bigger the organization, the more specialized the roles will be. For companies with lots of content or an agency with lots of clients, an analyst with technical skill is important. For smaller companies, there may be just one person who does key phrase research, writing, and outreach.
In your opinion, what is the difference between an SEO analyst and an SEO manager?
Analysts focus on the data and actually implementing the work that goes into getting results. Managers focus on management, leadership, and communicating with other departments.
MIKE: An SEO Manager would be the person who understands all three parts of an SEO Analyst, bringing it all together, and on time. Timing and delivery are extremely important when identifying success organically. The manager makes the case for strategy, implements the tasks, and measures the results.
The SEO analyst is someone who can do the dirty work, analyze the data and totality of the site’s environment and ecosphere, and help provide guidance and direction on improving the site’s position, while the SEO manager is much more project/people management focused, overseeing the work product/deliverability of multiple SEO analysts.
A good SEO analyst is someone who really loves data and who can look at a spreadsheet and see a story. An analyst should be, at least to some degree, technically minded. They should be genuinely excited by the results of a rankings export or a site crawl and willing to spend the time meticulously finding problems and patterns. An ideal analyst also knows why issues they find are problematic and what the viable solutions are.
An SEO manager should have the wherewithal to understand technical SEO concepts, even if they aren’t as good “in the weeds” as an analyst would be. This role requires more of a “big picture” mentality and the ability to communicate with other internal departments, balance priorities and develop a campaign that takes other channels into account. Ideally, an SEO manager is also a strong client-facing individual who can help communicate SEO principles and possibilities to current and prospective clients.
When you’re hiring an SEO analyst, what qualifications do you look for?
SEO analysts must be detail-oriented, good with explaining data in a clear way, and focus on getting results for clients.
ISABELLE: At Acquisio, it’s equally important to bring expert talent together with exceptional people and make sure they’re a good fit for the team as a whole, especially since SEOs tend to work cross-departmentally. To hire an SEO analyst, we would look for someone with at least a few years of experience who is up to date with the highly fluctuating and dynamic world of SEO. [We also look for] someone who has past proven results, i.e. they implemented the following strategy in the past and got x positive results.
DAMON: Experience is less important for this role than personality, in my opinion. I want someone inquisitive, solution-oriented, driven and self-reliant, someone who asks questions and likes learning. Detail-oriented with solid written communication skills. But above all those, I have to enjoy working with them or perceive that I could enjoy working with them.
ANDY: A good analyst has an open mind. Sadly, most don’t. They obsess about one aspect of SEO (URL structure, page speed, etc.) and miss the bigger picture. An analyst shouldn’t be biased. They should consider anything that gets results.
When you’re hiring an SEO manager, what qualifications do you look for?
SEO managers have experience in SEO – some may have even been analysts in the past. Managers are the link between client expectations and the actual implementation of the work by writers and analysts.
MIKE: When hiring an SEO Manager, I first look at experience. It is essential to me that the candidate possess a diverse portfolio with a proven track record. They do not need to have previous experience as a manager, but they do need to have experience in measuring organic success. Beyond ability, I also take into consideration their personality and generosity. This candidate would need to be approachable and have the willingness to lead and teach.
JENNIFER: One of the most important skills of an SEO manager is the ability to understand a client’s overall business goals to be able to apply SEO strategies tailored to reach those. It also helps that an SEO manager understands other marketing channels to be able to understand where those intersect with SEO and how to uses each one to strengthen the others. An SEO manager should also have some technical aptitude to be able to work closely with an analyst and understand how design and development functions can affect SEO. Finally, an SEO manager should have excellent communication skills and the ability to follow a project from the identification of an issue all the way through to a completed solution.
[It’s important to have] a solid understanding of all aspects of SEO from an on-page, off-page, and technical standpoint, but also able to identify opportunities to work across channels to provide the most value to a client. I look for a solid foundation in some aspect of SEO but want to see some examples of being a T-shaped marketer.
What should your priorities be as an SEO analyst?
Presenting data in an easily understandable way, looking at data to improve campaigns, and focusing on completing client goals is key for SEO analysts.
MIKE: An SEO Analyst should focus on intent and user experience first when performing tasks. This is the foundation in which search was formulated. An analyst should leverage the modern day tools and tactics to approach tasks and search naturally.
DAMON: Client focused, process driven, constantly looking at analytics, rankings reports, & competitor data to mine opportunities for improved rankings and additional traffic.
MATT: Ensure your data is clean and use [it] to paint a clear, concise picture of what is going on and where you need to go.
ANDY: The focus should be on the business goals. Beyond rankings, why does the company care about SEO? Is it just about brand awareness? If so, they should focus on top line traffic. Or is it about lead generation? If so, they should focus on traffic quality and conversion rates per key phrase and URL. Rankings aren’t results. They are just the first step in true ROI.
What should your priorities be as an SEO manager?
Plan and implement the large-scale timelines, requirements, and goals of clients are key for SEO managers. They then delegate to their employees in a way that best gets results.
MIKE: It is the duty of an SEO Manager to make sure that the organic strategy in which analysts operate are up to standards with changes in search. They should also be very timely in their delivery, but also follow a systematic timeline; much like that of a project manager.
ISABELLE: As an SEO manager your priorities should be to plan large scale implementation and strategy, to liaise SEO priorities and communications between departments or to account managers and to be the SEO authority internally (provide direction and clarity like any other management role would require).
JENNIFER: The SEO manager’s priorities are largely going to be creating, executing and evaluating campaigns effectively…They are also likely the person who is responsible for quality assurance and assessing results. While metric measurement and data gathering may be done by an analyst, it’s often more on the manager to turn the numbers into a narrative that explains how previous actions have created current results and to identify data based implications to help define the next strategic steps.
If someone wanted to get into SEO, what resources would you point him or her to?
Many experts recommended Moz, Search Engine Journal, Distilled, Search Engine Land, and podcasts, online courses, and ebooks for people new to SEO.
MIKE: Learn from the teacher, and be the teacher. Surround yourself professionally and socially with experts in the field of SEO. They are constantly performing research, case studies, as well as going through their own trials and tribulations. Be humble by asking questions and be certain to share your own results. Learn how to measure the success of digital marketing efforts, so that when you start performing your own trials, you are able to measure your own successes and failures.
ISABELLE: If someone wanted to get into SEO, I’d say start with current information and don’t get bogged down with past SEO how-to content that is now obsolete or outdated. Once you’ve scoured [sites like] Search Engine Journal, Search Engine Land, and Moz for some recent ultimate guides etc., the best thing a new person to the industry could do is to shadow a senior SEO, get your hands on some technical audits if you can, and develop your own way of thinking and navigating through this dense topic.
JENNIFER: Search Engine Land is my go to for news and I’m a big fan of Bill Slawski and seobythesea.com, particularly for the insights on Google patents.
MATT: For the foundational fundamentals check out Google’s guide, and if you’re just starting out, find a mentor! Even if it’s online, find someone who is willing to answer your questions and provide some guidance. If you’re having trouble finding someone, go to a local meetup! So many cities have groups that get together to talk about digital marketing and/or SEO. This has been one of my favorite parts about having SEO as a career. It’s great for networking and also helps you find a mentor.
Thank you to our great HR manager and SEO experts! If you want to learn more about different roles in SEO and how they impact online visibility, check out our post The Competencies Required for SEO or our job openings for SEO analysts, managers, and other positions!
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